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The Dominican Death and the Carmelite Life;
And between these two there is never suite,
For each has his separate office and station,
And each his own work in the congregation;
Whoso to the white brother deafens his ears,
And cannot be wrought on by blessings or tears,
Awake in his coffin must wait and wait,
In that blackness of darkness that means too late,
And come once a year, when the ghost-bell tolls,
As till Doomsday it shall on the eve of All-Souls,
To hear Doctor Death, whose words smart with the brine
Of the Preacher, the tenth verse of chapter nine.
FOUQUET THE MAGNIFICENT.
Modern times began in France with the death of Mazarin. Spain, Austria, and Italy no longer led the world in polities, literature, and refinement. The grande nation, delivered from Ligue and Fronde, took her position with England at the head of civilized Europe. This great change had been going on during eighty years of battle, murder, anarchy, and confusion. As always, the new grew up unnoticed, until it overtopped the old. The transformation was complete in 1661, when Louis XIV. appeared upon the scene, and gave his name to this brilliant period, with not much better claim to the distinction than had Vespucci to America.
There had been a prodigious yield of Drains in France. A host of clever men developed the new ideas in every direction. Philosophy and science, literature and language, manners, habits, dress, assumed the forms with which we are so familiar. Then commenced the grand fiecle, the era Frenchmen date from. They look upon those gallant ancestors almost as contemporaries, and still admire their feats in war, and laugh over their strokes of wit. The books they wrote became classies, and were in all hands until .within the last twenty or thirty years.
Latterly, indeed, they have been less read, for thought is turning to fresh fields, and society seems to be entering upon a new era.
No man more fully recognized the great change that was going on, or did more to help it forward, than Nicolas Fouquet, Vicomte de Vaux, and Marquis de Belleile,—but better known as the Surintendant. In the pleasant social annals of France, Fouquet is the type of splendor, and of sudden, hopeless ruin. "There was never a man so magnificent, there was never a man so unfortunate," say the lively gentlemen and ladies in their Memoires. His story is told to point the old and dreary moral of the instability of human prosperity. It is, indeed, like a tale of the " Arabian Nights." The Dervish is made Grand Vizier. He marries the Sultan's daughter. His palace owes its magical beauty to the Genies. The pillars are of jasper, the bases and capitals of massive gold. The Sultan frowns, waves his hand, and the crowd, who kissed the favorite's slipper yesterday, hoot and jeer as they see him pass by to his dungeon, disgraced, stripped, and beaten. Fouquet was of good family, the son of a Councillor of State in Louis XIIT.'s time. Educated for the magistracy, he became a Mintre ties Requetes (say Master in Chancery) at twenty, and at thirty-five Procureur-Ge"neral (or Attorney-General) of the Parliament of Paris, which was only a court of justice, although it frequently attempted to usurp legislative, and even executive functions. During the rebellious troubles of the Fronde, the Procureur and his brother, the Abbd Fouquet, remained faithful to Mazarin and to the throne. The Abbe\ in the ardor of his zeal, once offered the Queen his sen-ices to kill De Retz and salt him, if she would give her consent. It was at the request of the Queen that the Cardinal made the trusty Procureur Surintendant des Finances, the first position in France after the throne and the primeministership.
Pensions, and the promise of comfortable places, had collected about the Surintendant talent, fashion, and beauty. Some of the ablest men in the kingdom were in his employ. Pellisson, famous for ugliness and for wit, the Acanthe of the Hotel de Rambouillet, the beloved of Sappho Scuddry, was his chief clerk. Pellisson was then a Protestant; but Fouquet's disgrace, and four-years in the Bastille, led him to reexamine the grounds of his religious faith. He became, luckily, enlightened on the subject of his heresies at a time when the renunciation of Protestantism led to honors and wealth. Change of condition followed change of doctrine. The King attached him to his person as Secretary and Historiographer, and gave him the management of the fund for the conversion of Huguenots. Gourville, whom Charles IL, an excellent judge, called the wisest of Frenchmen, belonged to Fouquet, as a receiver-general of taxes. Moliere wrote two '5f his earlier plays for the Surintendant . La Fontaine was an especial favorite. He bound himself to pay for his quarterly allowance in quarterly madrigals, ballads, or sonnets. If he failed, a bailiff was to be sent to levy on his stanzas. He paid pretty regularly, but in a depreciated currency. The verses have not the golden ring of the "Contes" and the "Fables."
"Le Roi, l'£tat, la Patrie,
That is a sample of their value. Quackmedicine poets often do as well. He wrote "Adonis" for Fouquet, and had worked three years at the " Songe de Vaux," when the ruin of his patron caused him to lay it aside. It is a dull piece. Four fairies, Palaliane, Hortdsie, Apellanire, and Calliope'e, make long speeches about their specialty in Art, as seen at Vaux. Their names sutliciently denote it. A fish comes as ambassador from Neptune to Vaux, the glory of the universe, where Oronte (Fouquet's alias, in the affected jargon of the period)
"fait b&tir un palais magnifiquo,
Apollo comes and promises to take charge
Fouquet's physician, Pecquet, is well known to physiologists by his treatise, "De Motu Chyli," and by "Pecquet's reservoir." His patron was warmly interested in the new discoveries in circulation, which were then, and so long after, violently opposed by the Purgons and the Diajbirus of the old school. The Surintendant's judgment was equally good in Art. Le Brun, the painter, owed fame and fortune to him. He gave him twelve thousand livres a year, besides paying a fixed price for each of his works. With the exception of Renaudot's journal, Loret's weekly gazette, published in the shape of a' versified letter to Mademoiselle de Longueville, was the only newspaper in France. Fouquet furnished the editor with money and with items. He allowed Scarron sixteen hundred livres a year, when Mazarin struck his name from the pension-list, as punishment for a "Mazarinade," the only squib of the kind the Cardinal had ever noticed. Poor Soarron was hopelessly paralyzed, and bedridden. He had been a comely, robust fellow in his youth, given to diasipated courses. In a Carnival frolic, he appeared in the streets with two companions in the character of bipeds with feathers, — a scanty addition to Plato's definition of man. This airy costume was too much for French modesty, proverbially shrinking and sensitive. The mob hooted and gave chase. The maskers fled from the town and hid themselves in a marsh to evade pursuit. The result of this venturesome travestissement was the death of both his friends, and an attack of inflammatory rheumatism which twisted Scarron for life into the shape of the letter Z.
The Surintendant's hotel, at St. Mandc, was a marvel of art, his library the best in France. The number and value of his books was urged against him, on his trial, as evidence of his peculations. His country-seat, at Vaux, cost him eighteen millions of livres. Three villages were bought and razed to enlarge the grounds. I.-- Vau built the chateau. Le Brun painted the ceilings and panels. La Fontaine and Michel Gervaise furnished French and Latin mottoes for the allegorical designs. L"e Notre laid out the gardens in the style which may still be seen at Versailles. Torelli, an Italian engineer, decorated them with artificial cascades and fountains, a wonder of science to Frenchmen in the seventeenth century. Puget had collected the statues which embellished them. There was a collection of wild animals, a rare spectacle before the days of zoological gardens, — an aviary of foreign birds,—tanks as large as ponds, in which, among other odd fish, swam a sturgeon and a salmon taken in the Seine. Everything was magnificent, and everything was new,—so original and so perfect, that Louis XIV., after he had crushed the Surintendant, could find no plans so good and no artists so skilful as these pour cmbellir son regne. He was obliged to imitate the man he hated. Even Fouquet's men of letters were soon enrolled in the service of the King.
In March, 1661, Mazarin died, full of honor. His favorite saying, " // tiempo e tat galantuomo," was fulfilled for him. In
spite of many desperate disappointments and defeats, Messer Tiempo had made him'rich, powerful, and triumphant. The young King, who had already announced his theory of government in the wellknown speech, "L'Etat, c'est moi," waited patiently, and with respect, (filial, some have said,) for the old man to depart. He put on mourning, a compliment never paid but once before by a French sovereign to the memory of a subject, — by Henry IV. to Gabrielle d'Estre-es. When the Council came together, the King told them, that hitherto he had permitted the late Cardinal to direct the affairs of State, but that in future he should take the duty upon himself, —the gentlemen present would aid him with their advice, if he should see fit to ask for it. It was a "neat little speech," and very much to the point: Louis XIV. had the talent of making neat little speeches. But the Surintendant, who presided in tho Council, did not believe him. A prince, he thought, two-and-twenty years of age; fond of show and of pleasure, of moderate capacity, and with no education,might undertake for a while the cares of government, but, when the novelty wore off, would tire of the labor. And then, whose pretensions to shoulder the burden were so well founded as Fouquet's? He was almost a king, and had the political patronage of a president. The revenue of the nation passed through his hands. Fermiers and traitants, those who farmed the taxes and those who gathered them for a consideration, obeyed his nod and laid their offerings at his feet. A judicious mixture of presents and promises had given him the control of judges enough in the different Parliaments to fortify his views of the public business by legal decisions. In his own Parliament he was supreme. Clever agents, stationed in important places, both at home and abroad, watched over his interests, and kept him informed of all that transpired, by faithful couriers. But he misunderstood his position, and was mistaken in his King. Louis XIV. had, indeed, little talent and less education. He could never learn Latin, at that time as muck a part of a gentleman's training as French is now with us; but he had what for want of a more distinctive word we may call character, — that well - proportioned mixture of sense, energy, and self-reliance which obtains for its possessor more success in life, and more respect from those about him, than brilliant mental endowments. It was the moral side of his nature which was deficient. He was selfish, envious, and cruel; and he had not that noble hatred of the crooked, the mean, and the dishonorable which becomes a gentleman. Mazarin once said,— "There is stuff enough in him to make four kings and one worthy man." Divide this favorable opinion by four, and the result will be an approximation to tie value of Louis XIV. as a monarch and a man. There was a king in him,—a determination to be master, and to bear no rival near the throne, no matter of how secondary or trifling a nature the rivalry might be.
Fouquet had been deep in Mazarin's confidence, his agent and partner in those sharp financial operations which had brought so much profit to the Cardinal and so little to the Crown. One of their jobs was to buy up, at an enormous discount, old and discredited claims against the Treasury, dating from the Fronde, which, when held by the right parties, were paid in full, — a species of fraud known by various euphemisms in the purest of republies. All the checks and balances of our enlightened system of administration, whether federal, state, or municipal, do not prevent skilful officials from perverting vast sums of money to their own uses. la France, demoralized by years of civil war, the official facilities for plundering were concentrated in the hands of one clever man. We can easily understand that his wealth was enormous, and his power correspondingly great.
When the late Cardinal, surfeited with spoils, was drawing near his end, scruples of conscience, never folt before, led him to advisa the King to keep a strict watch
upon the Surintendant . He recommended for that purpose his steward, Colbert, of whose integrity and knowledge of business he had the highest opinion. Colbert was made Under-Seeretary of State, and Fouquet's dismissal from office determined upon from that time.
The Surintendant had no previsions of danger. With his usual boldness, he laid the financial "situation " of the kingdom before his new master, confessed frankly what it was impossible to conceal, laid the blame of all irregularities upon Mazarin, or upon the exigencies of the times, and ended by imploring an amnesty for the past, and promising thrift and economy for the future. The King appeared satisfied, and granted a full pardon. Fouquet, more confident than ever, dashed on in the old way, while Colbert and his clerks were quietly digging the pit into which he was soon to fall. Colbert was reinforced by Seguier, the Chancellor, and by Le Tellier, a Secretary of State, who had an energetic son, Louvois, in the War Department . All three hated the Surintendant, and each hoped to succeed him. Fouquet's ostentation and haughtiness had made him enemies among the old nobility. Many of them were eager to see the proud and prosperous man humiliated, — merely to gratify that wretched feeling of envy and spite so inherent in poor human nature, and one of the strongest proofs of that corruption "which standeth in the following of Adam."
Louis XIV. had reasons of his own for his determination to destroy the Surintendant . First of all, he was afraid of him. The Fronde was fresh in the royal memory. Fouquet had enormous wealth, an army of friends and retainers; he could command Brittany from his castle of Belleile, which he had fortified and garrisoned. Why might he not, if his ambition were thwarted, revive rebellion, and bring back misery upon France? The personal reminiscences of the King's whole life must have made him feel keenly the force of this apprehension. He was ten years old, when, to escape De Eetz and Beaufort, the Queen-Mother fled with him to Si. Germain, and slept there upon straw, in want of the necessaries of life. After their return to Paris, the mob broke into the Louvre, and penetrated to the royal bedehamber. He could not well forget the night when his mother placed him upon his knees to pray for the success of the attempt to arrest Conde, who thought himself the master. He was twelve when Ma-zarin marched mi" France with seven thousand men wearing green scarfs, the Cardinal's colors, and in the Cardinal's pay. After the young King had joined them, the Parliament of Paris offered fifty thousand crowns for the Cardinal's head. He was thirteen when Conde, in command of Spanish troops, surprised the royalists at ISlriii-.-iu, and would have captured King and Court, had it not been for the skill of Turenne. A few years before, Turenne had served against France, under the Spanish flag. The boy-King had-witnessed the battle of St. Antoine, — had seen the gates of Paris closed against him, and the cannon of the Bastille firing upon his army, by order of his cousin, Mademoiselle, the grand-daughter of Henry IV. He had known a Parliament at Paris, and an Anti-Parliament at Poutoise. In 1651, Conde, De Retz, and La Rochefoucauld fought in the Palais Royal, almost in the royal presence. In 1652 be had been compelled to exile Mazarin again; and it was not until 1658 that Turenne finally defeated Conde and Don John of Austria, and opened the way to the Peace of the Pyrenees, and the marriage with the I n:-nit i. Oliver Cromwell aided the King with six thousand of his soldiers in this battle, and seized upon Dunkirk to repay himself, — only three years before. No wonder Louis was anxious to place the throne beyond the reach of danger and insult, and to crush the only man who seemed to have the power to rekindle a civil war.
A stronger and a meaner motive he kept to himself. He was small - minded enough to think that a subject overshadowed him, nee pluribat impar. He
hated Fouquet because he was so much admired, — because he was called the Magnificent, — because his chateaux and gardens were incomparably finer than St. Germain or Fontainebleau,—because he was surrounded by the first wits and artists, — no trifling matter in that bright morning of French literature, when every gentleman of station in Paris aspired to be a bel-esprit, or, if that was impossible, to keep one in his employ. "Le -Roi I'abaissa jusqu'a se croire fyumilie par un sujel." His "gloire" as he called it, was his passion, not only in war and in government, where it meant something, but in buildings and furniture, dress and dinners, madrigals and bonmols. The monopoly of gloire he must and would have,—nobly, if possible, but at any rate, and in every kind, gloire.
And the unlucky Surintendant had sinned against the royal feelings in a still more unpardonable way. The King was in love with La Valli&re. He had surrounded his attachment with the mystery the young and sentimental delight in. Fouquet, quite unconscious of the royal fancy, had cast eyes of favor upon the same lady. Proceeding according to the custom of men of middle age and of abundant means, he had wasted no time in petiis soins and sighs, but, Jupiter-like, had offered to shower two hundred thousand livres upon the fair one. This proposition was reported to the King, and was the cause of the acharnemenl, the relentless fury, he showed in persecuting Fouquet. He would have dealt with him as Queen Christina had dealt with Monaldeschi, if he had dared. The hatred survived long after he had dismissed the fair cause of it from his affections, and from his palace.
Such was the Surintendant's position when he issued his invitation to the King, Court, and bel-air for the seventeenth of August, 1661,— the Jets de Vaux, which fills a paragraph in every history of France. In June, he had entertained the Queen of England in a style which made Mazarin'a pageants for the Infanta Queen seem tasteless and old - fashioned.